Recharging Canberra - Solar Citizens

Recharging Canberra

The blue & yellow Solar Citizens electric ute is parked on the green grass in front of Parliament House. A blue sky is above.

A bright and early start on Ngunnawal and Ngambri country, we rendezvoused with our media team, Josh and Che from DCS Video. While these two legends set up cameras and microphones inside the ute, the rest of us game-planned the day—it was going to be a big one. 

And as we drove up the Hill, a strange thought popped into my mind: is this the first time you've been to Parliament House since your Grade 5 school trip? I think it is.

For a day that was predicted to be rainy and even thunderstorm, we were absolutely blessed with clear skies and sun (driving politicians around in the rain wouldn't be much fun at all, especially without our trademark yellow umbrellas!)

From our first MP ride with the Member for North Sydney Kylea Tink, we went virtually non-stop, operating as a well-oiled machine. Our National Director, Heidi, would greet the MP, standing in a bright yellow jacket to match her sunny disposition. Heidi would tell them about our Recharging Australia report, making sure to get a nice snap or two from our media team. 

Heidi Lee Douglas in her yellow jacket hands a copy of the Recharging Australia report to Dan Repacholi MP

MP for the Hunter, Dan Repacholi with National Director Heidi Lee Douglas

Then, our Regional Clean Transport Organiser Ben and I would take them (and any advisors game enough) for a ride in our eT60 ute. Ben drove us around both new and old Parliament Houses, driving carefully whilst doing his best to show them the incredible acceleration potential of the ute going up the hill. From the back seat, I would ask questions and answer them, with Josh chipping in occasionally to get a slightly more emotive response for the videos he was capturing. 

Topics of conversation ranged from charging infrastructure to vehicle pollution and health impacts, from mobility in general to manufacturing opportunities, but we almost always talked about the stats of the ute – could it tow? How far could it go? And how much did it cost? And it's $20,000 cheaper in New Zealand you say?? (For all the stats, check out this great page on The Driven)

For all these points, we made sure to reinforce the point that this ute is the first of its kind, and not the last by any means. In fact, there are already other EV utes in other countries – even as close as across the ditch in New Zealand! But, we would only see more EV utes, and better ones too, if we could fix Fuel Efficiency Standards in the near future. 

Ben Lever, Heidi Lee Douglas, Monique Ryan MP, and Ajaya Haikerwal stand in front of the Solar Citizens electric ute outside Parliament House, with bushland in the background

Dr Monique Ryan, Member for Kooyong with the team

When we returned from the short loop of Parliament House, we would take a few more photos and make sure we exchanged business cards and gave the MP a copy of our Recharging Australia report.

Throughout the day, we met with a variety of MPs and Senators, from the Government, Crossbench, and Opposition, making sure to get ample photos and videos for each one. We will progressively release these videos, so make sure you're following our socials so you don't miss out! 

But one experience stuck out more than any on the day: when Senator David Pocock officially launched our report for us. After taking Senator Pocock for a lap around Parliament, we parked the ute on the lawn on Capital Hill (don't worry, we got permission!) where a huddle of journalists (what's the proper collective term for journalists anyway?) had gathered under our marquee. 

Senator Pocock speaks to the cameras, with a microphone in front of him. Ajaya Haikerwal and Heidi Lee Douglas stand to the left of shot. To the right of shot, the electric ute is in the background, and behind all is Parliament House

Senator David Pocock at our press conference, with National Director Heidi Lee Douglas and Clean Transport Campaigner Ajaya Haikerwal

When it was time for him to speak, Senator Pocock was calm, articulate, and powerful. I think his energy helped me also be calm, talk less quickly than I normally do, and remember all my lines. Heidi also spoke eloquently about the cost of living crisis and why this policy mattered in the broad scheme of things. Have a watch of the press conference here:

All in all a great experience. Big props to Dan Bleakley from The Driven for asking some poignant questions and keeping the conversation going a bit longer. You can read Dan's recap of the launch here.

In the cafe after we'd wrapped up for the day, I bumped into a friend who was pushing for environmental protections in the Southern Ocean. It was heartwarming to see a familiar face, but also humbled me slightly. There are so many issues constantly being advocated for in Parliament House. In fact, just the next day, Solar Citizens' own Consumer Advocacy team were meeting a range of MPs with Rewiring Australia's Electrify Parliament day. It just goes to show, that this really is where our democracy comes alive, and just how hard we have to fight to make our voices heard.

Ajaya Haikerwal
Clean Transport Campaigner